May 10 (UPI) — Despite an election that ousted Malaysia’s ruling party for the first time in more than 60 years, critics say Prime Minister Najib Razak has placed setbacks to the ascension of Mahathir Mohamad as his successor.
The win was historic for the opposition coalition, called Pakatan Harapan, as it took control for the first time in more than 60 years and put Mahathir, Malaysia’s longest serving leader, back in office. The 92-year-old defected from Najib’s party in 2016.
The coalition won 112 seats in the 222-seat government to unseat the Barisan Nasional coalition.
Mahathir hoped he would be sworn in Thursday and Najib acknowledged the results, but also suggested the final result might be in doubt. He said it would be up to the king, Sultan Muhammad V, to decide who should be sworn in as prime minister.
“Because no party has gotten a simple majority, therefore the king will be making a decision as to who will be the prime minister,” Najib said.
The opposition says the defeated prime minister is delaying Mahathir’s swearing-in ceremony so he has time to influence the king. Some reports accuse Najib of attempting to swing the election in his favor by buying up candidates in the state of Sabah.
Questions have also surrounded the proper registration of Mahathir’s coalition. Last month, Mahathir has lashed out at Najib after missing paperwork resulted in temporary dissolution of his Bersatu Party.
But official reasons for the delay have not been made clear.
Reasons for the delay were not clear but questions swirled concerning proper registration of
Najib has been accused of gerrymandering and suppressing free speech during a contentious campaign. He’s also suspected of trying to manipulate the popular vote after backing legislation to redraw the electoral map.
Najib, 64, has faced criticisms over the rising cost of living and the government’s handling of the still-missing flight MH370. His regime also was hit by a multi-billion dollar corruption scandal involving a state fund.
Mahathir has said he would clear the way for criminal prosecution of Najib. He declared Thursday morning it was time for Malaysia to honor the rule of law and said the king should swear him into office by 5 p.m., but by 8 p.m. there was still no announcement from the palace.
“Any delay will mean we have no government, and when you say you have no government, you have no law, you have no constitution, Mahathir said. “You don’t have all the institutions which are created to give form to the government of this country.”